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Do fake miracles discredit real divine healings? (pt 2)

The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural by Lee Strobel.
The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural by Lee Strobel. | (Photo: Courtesy of McClure Muntsinger Public Relations)

In a recent book by New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel, The Case for Miracles, Lee does an outstanding job substantiating true divine interventions. He reports several documented healings in his book and also details a shocking story, which is something that should neither surprise nor offend us as Christians. Allow me to quote:

There are more than a thousand people in the British auditorium. The lights are bright, and the organ music swells with old time gospel music. The healing evangelist speaks in an unknown tongue; he cast out demons; he touches people on the face and they instantly fall backward. There is an unmistakable sense of excitement and anticipation in the room.

The evangelist, who seems to be responding to some private word of knowledge, begins calling out diseases that are being healed. Soon people line up to testify that their ailments have miraculously disappeared. Someone says his shortsightedness is cured. Another reports that a persistent ringing in her ears have stopped. A third says his sprained ankle has suddenly been restored to full strength and he can walk again without pain.

The evening has the feel of a charismatic healing service, but with one major difference: the “healing evangelist” is an atheist.

Darren Brown is a former Christian who is now one of England’s most famous illusionists. ‘It is his ability as a ‘mentalist’ that sets him apart’ says Christian commentator Justin Brierley. ‘Using a mixture of suggestion, ‘cold reading,’ hypnosis, and plain old trickery, Brown has the ability to make people believe in God, miracles and the power of prayer.

Lee Strobel provides several quotes by Darren Brown, which explain how he can accomplish this atmosphere. Lee concludes by asking “Do these fake miracles discredit other miracle claims? Or because this atmosphere doesn’t resemble how most healings take place, is Brown’s show irrelevant to the question of whether some miracles are actually genuine?” In his concluding paragraphs, Lee delineates how a skeptic like himself was able to find the real miracles in the midst of possible deceptions. 

There is nothing sadder to me than hearing about someone like Darren Brown who “used to be a Christian.” They obviously had experienced something in their lives that caused them to stumble spiritually. Often these individuals stumble over what they believed to be a fallacy.

Sadly, well-meaning people often wrongly feel like they have to emotionally ramp up the crowd at a church service to see faith increased and somehow welcome in the presence of God. As the years have gone by, I have found myself compelled to seek the Lord more diligently, asking Him to guide me into “all truth” and to pray for wisdom and understanding of the things I see.  

In one season of my life I was particularly interested in trying to determine the source of the “not so supernatural miracles.”  I continued by seeking the Lord to help me understand how ministries which did not have the fruit of being truly God’s ministers could have so many seeming “miracles” happening in their meetings. Some would be quick to say that all miracles are the product of grace and grace alone, as the rationalization for why God will use imperfect people to work the seemingly miraculous before our eyes.

Then one weekend in Athens, Georgia, at a local boat club, it was announced at a community picnic that we had a bit of a celebrity in our midst. I will not identify him but he was an internationally known psychologist who had recently published a book concerning psychosomatic illnesses. Since I felt God had been showing me something, I could not wait to approach him with some questions.

I said, “Sir, isn’t it correct that a large part of the medical community today believes that many of the illnesses that people suffer from are the result of a psychological condition mostly brought on to gain attention or sympathy?

As children, when they suffered some sort of ailment, their mothers or caregivers coddled them with intense love. Therefore, as adults, subconscious mechanisms kick in, which are not fully understood, but somehow create very real and sometimes very serious symptoms, sometimes even paralysis?”

He said, “Yes, that is correct. There have been years of documented research to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt.” Then I asked him an eyebrow-raising follow-up question. “What if I knew of a scenario which exists in the church in America which could reverse that craving for attention which is causing psychosomatic illness?” He responded by asking immediately, “what could that possibly be?” I responded, “Right now there is something called the 'Faith Movement,' whose proponents teach that God wants to heal every form of sickness and disease.

They tell their followers that there are certain formulas and scriptures, which a true believer can learn, and that if they follow these formulas, everyone can be totally healed. They further teach that all sickness is an attack of a demon. I suspect that this theory could be the reversing agent to the whole psychosomatic illness attention-seeking syndrome.

Proponents then explain away the cases of any individuals who are not healed and are presumed to have 'secret sin' in their life. The result of this teaching is that psychosomatic sicknesses no longer gain positive attention and sympathy but instead are viewed negatively and cause sufferers to be shunned. In theory, then, whatever clicks in the brain causing the illness could 'unclick' and 'voila', a psychologically induced 'miracle'!" The author immediately commended the possibility.  

Let us never forget that Jesus warned his disciples that some last days “miracles” would be so convincing that true followers of Christ could be deceived. Just as Moses’ serpent devoured Pharaoh’s serpents, we must be confident that when God does work any type of a miracle, it will far outshine anything that man or the devil can conjure up.

Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is

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